Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four

 

Introduction

Having been greeted at the entrance to Jerusalem, we continue on our journey to the Temple Mount. Most of this mishnah is straightforward, so I will only deal with certain issues that come up in section two.

 

Mishnah Four

1)      The flute would play before them, until they reached the Temple Mount.

2)      When they reached the Temple Mount even King Agrippas would take the basket and place it on his shoulder and walk as far as the Temple Court.

3)      When he got to the Temple Court, the Levites would sing the song: “I will extol You, O Lord, for You have raised me up, and You have not let my enemies rejoice over me” (Psalms 30:2).

 

Explanation

Section two: In the Second Temple period there were a few kings named Agrippas. A ccording to Albeck, the Mishnah refers to Agrippas I, who lived between 10 B.C.E-44 C.E. and ruled in the Galilee between 37-41 and became king of Judea from 41-44. He was the grandson of Herod the Great. He is also referred to favorably in Sotah 7:8. The mishnah there discusses a festive gathering which occurred on the last day of Sukkot at the end of the Sabbatical year. At that time they would read portions from Deuteronomy. The mishnah states:

 

The synagogue attendant takes a Torah scroll and hands it to the head of the synagogue, the head of the synagogue hands it to the deputy and he hands it to the high priest, and the high priest hands it to the king and the king stands and receives it, but reads it while sitting. King Agrippa stood and received it and read standing, and the sages praised him. When he reached, “You shall not place a foreigner over you” (ibid 17:15) his eyes ran with tears. They said to him, “Fear not, Agrippas, you are our brother, you are our brother!”

 

Just as he acted humbly in that mishnah by standing when he could have sat, so too in our mishnah, Agrippas is mentioned favorably, for he humbly puts the basket with the bikkurim in it on his shoulder, just as all other Jews did.

This mishnah serves as an interesting foil for yesterday’s mishnah. There we learned that the social status of the people visiting Jerusalem was emphasized by those coming out to greet them when they arrived. Today we see the opposite—the very king of Israel would make sure that he acted in the same humble manner as everyone else. Perhaps this is also a tendency of human beings. We want to see our leaders act humbly, so that we can think of them as being “just like us.” On the other hand, we also want to elevate any small social advantage we have over others. Oh what fascinating creatures we are!

 

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